Wyoming Lottery Corporation Files Defamation Lawsuit against Edward Atchison
The Wyoming Lottery Corporation lawsuit against Edward Atchison was criticized by a lawyer involved in the case. Edward Atchison is a Cheyenne resident who stands accused of defaming the lottery.
Atchison’s lawyer described the lawsuit as lacking in details and possibly unconstitutional. The Wyoming Lottery Corporation was founded by an act of the state legislature in 2013. The lottery corporation began selling lottery tickets in 2015. Earlier this year, Edward Atchison began sending letters to Wyoming newspapers, disparaging the Wyoming state lottery.
Edward Atchison’s Accusations
In his letters, Mr. Atchison accused the Wyoming Lottery Company of dragging its feet when it came to implimenting solutions to problem gambling in the state. Like most state-licensed gaming enterprises, the Wyoming Lottery Corporation is supposed to take measures to prevent and treat compulsive gambling.
Those steps include a helpline for sufferers of gambling addiction, as well as online resources to help families learn how to help addicts. Some states have a self-exclusion list, though this is less commonly used for lottery gambling.
According to the lawsuit filed, Edward Atchison began sending letters in February 2016 which undermined the Wyoming lottery’s relationship with the national lottery organizations. Tim Kingston, Atchison’s lawyer, claims the lawsuits is an example of a “strategic lawsuit against public participation“, sometimes known by the acronym “SLAPP”.
What Is a SLAPP Lawsuit?
SLAPP lawsuits are a legal tactic used by corporations, says Mr. Kingston, set an example of a single citizen. In suing a person like Edward Atchison, it sends the message to the rest of the population that they should not speak out against the business or political interest. This has a withering effect on public dissent.
Constitutional Issues in the Case
Tim Kingston says the Wyoming Lottery Corporation’s lawsuit raises constitutional issues, because the corporation is a state-run enterprise. Because of its ties to the state, a lottery corporations SLAPP lawsuit might have 1st Amendment implications. The 1st Amendment of the US Constitution protects citizens from actions taken by governments to silence their free speech. Libel and defamation are exceptions to free speech rights, but proving libel and defamation has a high bar in a court of law.
The Wyoming Lottery Corporation has asked for an injunction against Edward Atchison, while also asking for punitive damages. In October, District Judge Thomas Campbell allowed the lawsuit to proceed and denied Atchison’s request that the case be dismissed. At the time, the judge allowed additional details of the case to be included in the legal brief, though the suit still lacks a clear statement of the monetary damage caused.
Kaufman: Atchison Undermined Powerball and Mega Million Sales
Matthew D. Kaufman, a Cheyenne-based lawyer who is acting as the lead attorney for the Wyoming Lottery Corporation, claims that the lawsuit against Atchison is not a SLAPP case. Mr. Kaufman says that Atchison’s inaccurate claims have hurt the Wyoming Lottery Corporation’s standing with the multi-state lottery corporation, which could cost the corporation tens of millions of dollars.
Kaufman says that the Wyoming Lottery Corporation must remain in good standing with the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the the Multi-State Lottery Association in order to sell the lucrative Mega Millions and Powerball tickets. The Powerball and Mega Millions are the highest-selling tickets that Wyoming lottery vendors sell, so anything which sours the relationship with the national lottery associations is a threat to the Wyoming Lottery Corporation.
By sending letters that accuses the Wyoming Lottery Corporation of malfeasance, Matthew Kaufman claims that Edward Atchison could undermine the sell of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets in the state. If such charges could be proven, then the punitive damages in such a case might amount to millions of dollars.